Catching Up With Local Michael Tatalovich On His 4,000-Mile Cycling Journey

Four thousand miles on a two-wheeled, man-powered vehicle. Through harsh desert climates, beautiful, scenic forests and some of the world’s top tourist cities, local Michael Tatalovich and 66 other cyclists are having the experience of a lifetime, riding about 80 miles per day to fight a disease that has touched most of our lives—cancer.

The 20-year-old architecture major is an integral part of the Texas 4000, a group consisting of University of Texas at Austin students whose goal is to raise awareness and funding for cancer research and to memorialize loved ones and honor those still fighting.

By the time the group stopped in Tatalovich’s hometown, Henderson, June 23 and 24, it had already raised more than half a million dollars, with $7 million since the program’s inception in 2004.

When Tatalovich was just 17, he was diagnosed with Stage 2 Ewing’s Sarcoma, a crushing diagnosis that resulted in aggressive chemotherapy for up to eight hours daily and the loss of his left femur.

After his surgery for a steel implant in his leg and just weeks after finishing chemo, Tatalovich heard about the Texas 4000 from a UT speaker about to take on the journey himself. “I knew one of my only exercise options was low impact,” Tatalovich says. “So when I heard ‘cycling’ and ‘raise money for cancer research,’ I leaned over to my mom and told her, ‘I need to come back and find out what this is.’ I knew it was the perfect intersection.”

Just last summer Tatalovich was still using a cane, but he was determined to start training for the 70-day cycling tour. “Riding my bike for 70 miles is hard, but going through chemo is a lot harder,” he says.

Despite the odds and with no prior cycling experience, he has traversed 1,500 miles from Austin to Henderson in three weeks. None of his fellow riders are professional cyclists.

“Almost everyone didn’t know how to clip into a road bike,” Tatalovich says, laughing.

When they’re not on the road, they often sleep in camping bags, in churches or on school gymnasium floors, which have been donated. They start out each morning with breakfast and a warm-up cycling circle before they embark, stopping for water only every 10 miles. They get plenty of attention along the way, as bewildered people snap phone pictures and ask what the Texas 4000 is all about. Tatalovich tells about others who have given cash on the spot, donated gas, food and even a place to spend the night.

The group’s next stop is Pahrump, then it will curve north through key destinations including Yosemite, Lake Tahoe, San Francisco—which Tatalovich is most excited for, to ride over the Golden Gate Bridge—plus Portland, Seattle, Vancouver and finally Anchorage at the journey’s end on August 12. That’s 10 states and two countries traversed solely by bicycle.

Although it’s a daunting feat, Tatalovich and the others are anything but intimidated. His parents had their concerns; according to his mom, Lin, his orthopedic surgeon told him, “If you fall, try to fall on your good side.” But for Tatalovich, his determination was set. “Once I said, ‘Okay, I’m going to do this,’ I was gonna do it.”

Plus, he has the help of the Make-A-Wish foundation. His original wish to meet the cast of Saturday Night Live—which he watched plenty of during chemo—might not have panned out, but he’s happy his current one did: to generate national press coverage along the Texas 4000 route and support the goal of funding research. With over 18,000 Instagram followers, Tatalovich is furthering awareness even more, posting photos and stories along the way.

“Already I can feel that this could be the perfect bookend in some ways to that chapter of my life,” Tatalovich says. “I’m being empowered from showing other people that survivorship can be very successful to them as well. I’ve noticed the personal growth of finding closure and becoming at peace with this.”

Written by Rosalie Spear

See original article here.